Long guns and House Bill 1010

A bill pending before the PA House of Representatives (HB 1010) and Senate (SB 1049) would require that purchasers of “long guns” from a seller who is not a dealer or manufacturer pass a background check before a registered dealer, importer, manufacturer or county sheriff’s office. (Transfers between certain family members are exempt.)

But we already have background checks, don’t we?

We do, but federal law does not cover private sales, and PA law has a big loophole.

State code (Title 18, sect. 6111.f2) says that background checks in private sales (thus, from non-dealers at a gun show, over the internet, or on the street) are required only for

pistols or revolvers with a barrel length of less than 15 inches, any shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches, any rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or any firearm with an overall length of less than 26 inches.

So a long gun purchase needs a background check if made from a licensed dealer (in a store, at a gun show, wherever), but not if from an unlicensed seller.

It’s hard to why this loophole exists if the General Assembly’s goal were to protect public safety. Someone planning a terrorist attack or wanting to kill an estranged spouse can go the “private” route and buy an armload of long guns in PA. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “An estimated 40% of all firearms transferred in the U.S. are transferred by unlicensed individuals.”

HB 1010 would end the exemption on background checks for private long gun sales. In return, as a convenience to people who feel they need to buy more than one gun at a go, it allows a single background check to count for the duration of a gun show, up to 48 hours.

But, some might say, a rifle or shotgun is just used for hunting; what’s the big deal?

First, rifles have been used in terroristic shootings. An in-state example is the 2014 shooting of two state troopers in Pike County PA. The nearly 7-week manhunt disrupted local life and occupied up to 1,000 police officers–obviously an expensive affair for the public, and even worse for the killed trooper and his wounded colleague.

Many other killers, as in the Colorado Planned Parenthood killing of three a couple of weeks ago, have also used rifles.

But what’s even more serious is that rapid-fire high-capacity long guns count in the same category as rifles and shotguns.

At Sandy Hook Elementary School 3 years ago today, on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 children and 6 adults with a Bushmaster .223 caliber model XM15-E2S rifle with a high capacity 30-round magazine (he also carried two handguns, one of which he used to kill himself) and also had a shotgun in his car.

The “Beltway Sniper” in 2002 killed 10 and injured 3 critically
with a “stolen Bushmaster XM-15 (AR-15 style) semiautomatic .223 caliber rifle equipped with an EOTech holographic weapon sight.”

The Colorado movie theater shooter in 2012 killed 12 with a semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15, used with a magazine of 100 rounds.

And earlier this month, assault rifles killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernadino (image of the weapons used from New York Times, 12/4/15).

Weapons in San Bernadino attack

Such scary merchandise can currently be bought privately in PA, with no background check.

HB 1010 / SB 1049 could be finally getting some traction in Harrisburg. From Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, here are the positions of Chesco members of the PA House on the bill:

13 John Lawrence
26 Tim Hennessey
74 Harry Lewis cosponsor
155 Becky Corbin
156 Dan Truitt supports
157 Warren Kampf cosponsor
158 Chris Ross cosponsor
160 Stephen Barrar
167 Duane Milne

and in the State Senate:

9 Dominic Pileggi cosponsor
19 Andy Dinniman cosponsor
26 Thomas McGarrigle cosponsor
44 John Rafferty

So, that’s a total of 7 out of 13 favorable. As the heat on the others rises, it will be interesting to see if they are drawn to the light. (Please post a comment if you know of other Chesco legislators’ positions on the bills.)

According to a Pew Research Center poll in July

85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – favor expanded background checks.

Expanded, that is, to include gun shows and private sales. Interestingly (per the full downloadable report), 82% of those respondents “who say it is more important to protect gun rights favor expanded background checks on private gun sales.” Even 74% of NRA members approve of universal background checks (which is what PA would have if HB 1010 / SB 1049 becomes law).

After all, most of us are eager to minimize the danger of death and injury to our friends, relatives, and selves, really to anyone, and according to the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence,

Researchers confirm that universal background check laws effectively improve public safety and save lives. Research has found that states with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 38 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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5 Responses to Long guns and House Bill 1010

  1. Jerry says:

    The fact that you clam that “this month assault weapons killed 14 people” speaks volumes regarding your limited intellectual capacity and makes it difficult to know where to start. First, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” available on the civilian market. None, zip, nada.

    Adding plastic grips and other accessories to a rifle does not make it any more dangerous than adding a racing stripe to your car would make it go any faster. More importantly, a rifle, with or without any “scary” attachments, is an inanimate object and it is a physical impossibility for it to kills someone.

    Finally, your entire analysis of the proposal currently before the Legislature makes no effort to identify the potential benefits of requiring background checks before a long rifle could be lawfully transferred from one private person to another. Although you make reference to several instances where long rifles have been used to commit terrible crimes you provide no support or other evidence to show that any of those shootings would have been prevented if only the expanded background checks had been required.

    The bottom line is that expanding the background check requirement to purely private sale of long rifles in Pennsylvania would add another level of inconvenience to law abiding citizens without adding the slightest benefit to society as a whole.

    • Im TiredOfLiars says:

      Well put. The liberal mindset doesn’t get the fact that more laws are not necessary. Repairing the current system is what’s needed. HIPAA has destroyed the ability to get good data on the mental health. Of course, HIPAA is a Democratic invention (thanks to Bill Clinton who signed into effect on his last day in office and left it for W to deal with.)

  2. shoeie says:

    What Jerry said……It will never pass. If it did, think about it….who’s going to enforce it? I’ve bought and sold many guns by private sale. We meet in the parking lot of the local big box store, exchange cash and the rifle and off we go. How in the world would you force anyone go to a dealer since there is no registry of long guns…….especially those with other than good intentions.

    • Im TiredOfLiars says:

      Well, you could be the problem if the guy you’re selling it to say ‘praise Allah’ when you hand him the gun. I think if you’re selling it to someone you know, fine. Else, Gerry is right and the buyer needs better scrutiny to avoid those with ill intentions. Of course, you have those horrible criminals who sell guns to the Mexican drug cartels and then they use them to kill a border agents.. who was that?? oh, that’s right, it’s the Bureau of ATF under Barack Obama!!
      RIP Brian Terry.

  3. Pingback: Long guns and House Bill 1010 | Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

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